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Project ID: 15-2-01-34

Year: 2015

Date Started: 09/01/2015

Ending Date:  09/30/2017

Title: Post-wildfire forest regeneration in a changing climate

Project Proposal Abstract: In western U.S. yellow pine and mixed-conifer forests, recruitment of the historically dominant tree species occurs primarily following disturbance. The post-fire regeneration period thus represents an important opportunity for forest community composition to respond to changing environmental conditions, particularly changes in climate. However, little is known about the influence of weather and climate on post-fire regeneration patterns. To help fill this gap, we have collected data on regenerating vegetation from more than 2000 plots located within the perimeters of 19 wildfires that have occurred in California between 2002 and 2008. Surveys were conducted 4-5 years following each wildfire and involved counting, aging, and measuring seedlings of all woody species and quantifying relevant biotic and abiotic site factors. Our dataset contains regeneration data from fires spanning 7 years, and it thus encompasses a substantial range of post-wildfire climatic conditions. Initial analyses of the data have revealed a significant relationship between total precipitation in the two years following wildfire and vegetation composition five years following wildfire. Regeneration patterns following fires that occurred at the beginning of the extreme California drought of 2012-2014 may provide a unique window into likely future post-wildfire regeneration patterns in an overall hotter, drier climate. We propose to take advantage of this opportunity by surveying vegetation within the perimeters of four large wildfires that burned in 2012, at the beginning of the drought. Further, we propose to revisit a subset of our previously-surveyed plots 5-10 years following the initial survey (i.e., revisiting at 10-15 years post-wildfire). These revisits will allow us to evaluate the degree to which initial (4- to 5-year post-fire) regeneration patterns are indicative of longer-term trajectories and the degree to which continued variation in weather (such as drought) can alter the trajectory of succession that is already underway. Our results will enable detailed, fine-scale predictions of forest response to variation in weather and climate given disturbance, and it will allow for identification of situations in which natural regeneration patterns may be insufficient to keep pace with changing climate. This information will be useful to both scientists and managers as they work to better understand and respond to the impacts of climate change on the forests of California.

Principal Investigator: Andrew M. Latimer

Agency/Organization: University of California-Davis

Branch or Dept: Department of Plant Sciences

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Agreements Contact

Ahmad H. Hakim-Elahi

University of California-Davis

Board of Regents

Budget Contact

Ahmad H. Hakim-Elahi

University of California-Davis

Board of Regents


Hugh D. Safford

Forest Service

PSW-Univ of CA-Davis

Student Investigator

Derek Young

University of California-Davis

Department of Plant Sciences

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network










Project Deliverables

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There are no deliverables available for this project.

Supporting Documents

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